1. Sit next to a person keeping a one cushion distance between chairs. We have a cushion for the student to actually execute the space till he or she generalises it.
2. The student with the help of a third person brings an activity out and approaches the parent or volunteer and says ‘be with me’. This works well with non-verbal children too with the simple sign of interlinked hands.
3. They both sit together and complete the activity and end it with a simple hand-shake or a high five.
4. During this time, we ensure that the student is not disturbed.
Our youngsters with autism often do not understand the boundaries of touch. I often see a parent shooing away her grown son or daughter in a public place ‘Don’t do that’, ‘Sit properly’. The same youngster often goes too close to a peer or a care-giver in an effort to get his or her attention. Instead, if we help them choose an activity of their choice and engage in it with a person they like, we are giving them an acceptable alternative to spending time with that person. The result; you have a young adult who feels empowered that he or she has chosen an activity, engaged with a friend and got the time that he or she wants with that person. Yes, the experience is not equivalent to the warmth of a hug or a cuddle but our young people are growing up. They have to learn to enjoy closeness and friendship without touching. This will help them prepare for adulthood and integrate with people.